Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket Review

The Outdoor Research Helium rain jacket is an extremely light jacket that provides good protection from wind and rain. It packs down really well into a small pocket that can be clipped onto a harness or rucksack.

Outdoor Research Men's Helium Rain Jacket – Breathable Weatherproof Jacket

Pleae note: This rain jacket is suitable for all genders. 

See our overall guide: 10 Best Waterproof Rain Jackets for Hiking

  • Very lightweight
  • Packs down into a small pocket

Cons / Reasons to Avoid

  • Not very breathable
  • Elastic cuffs let wind and rain in

The Outdoor Research Helium rain jacket is ideal if you are looking for a rain shell that is small and light enough to carry with you on a hike or cycle. It gives excellent protection from the wind, and it will keep you in typical rainy conditions. To keep it lightweight, Outdoor Research has used 2.5-layer fabric. The downside is that the Helium rain jacket isn’t brilliant at keeping you dry in heavy downpours. It isn’t particularly breathable, either.

See all products in our overall review of best waterproof rain jackets compared side by side: 

Arc'teryx Beta LT
Black Diamond StormLine
Outdoor Research Helium Rain
Marmot PreCip Eco
Arc’teryx Beta
Marmot Minimalist
Rab Downpour Plus 2.0
The North Face Venture 2
Columbia Watertight II
The North Face Dryzzle Futurelight
Buying Options
Our Awards
Best Women's Performance
Best Stretchy
Best Ultralight
Best Men's Performance
Best Womens
Best Mens
Best Budget
Weight
13.9 oz.
11.3 oz.
6.3 oz.
10.6 oz.
10.6 oz.
13 oz.
13.2 oz.
11.6 oz.
13 oz.
12 oz.
Waterproof
3L Gore-Tex
2.5L BD.dry
2.4L Pertex
2.5L NanoPro
3L Gore-Tex
2.5L Gore-Tex
2.5L Pertex
2.5L Dryvent
2L Omni-Tech
3L Futurelight
Pockets
2 zippered hand
2 zippered hand
2 zippered hand
2 Zippered Hand
2 Zippered Hand
2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest
2 zippered chest
2 zippered hand
2 zippered hand pockets; 2 internal drop-in pockets
2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest

Analysis and Test Results

Outdoor Research has succeeded in making a lightweight rain jacket that provides a great windproof top layer for hiking, biking, and other outdoor activities. Whilst it isn’t up to keeping you dry in heavy, sustained rain, it is waterproof in lighter conditions. The Helium rain jacket is composed of Pertex Shield Diamond Fuse 2.5-layer fabric with a DWR coating. While this material has good breathability, the lack of pit zips means moisture can build up inside the jacket, making it clammy and clingy. The material is thin but very tough. The zippers are all waterproof, but the sleeves have elastic cuffs that can allow wind and rain in. The Outdoor Research Helium rain jacket comes in several different colors, and it only has two small logos, so it looks good. It squashes down into a pocket and creates a small compact pack with a handy loop if you want to hook it on a harness or backpack. The hood is a generous size and would probably fit over most helmets. The men’s model only has one small chest pocket, but the women’s jacket has two hand pockets. Overall, this is a great, lightweight, backup layer that can be easily carried on any outdoor adventure which is why we recommend this as our Best Ultralight Rain Jacket.

Performance Comparison

best hiking jackets for rain

Type and Style

The Outdoor Research Helium rain jacket is extremely light, making it ideal for backpackers and hikers. It has a standard fit and will pack up into a very small, compact size.

Water Resistance

The water resistance of the Outdoor Research Helium rain jacket is comparable to similar 2.5-layer rain shells. This jacket is made from Pertex Shield Diamond Fuse 2.5-layer fabric, rated 20,000 mm. This will keep you dry in normal rainy conditions but wouldn’t last very long in a heavy downpour. The seams are all taped, and it has a DWR (durable water repellent) coating. The central zipper is a waterproof YKK Aquaguard® Zipper.

Breathability

The breathability of the Outdoor Research Helium rain jacket is good. Pertex Shield Diamond Fuse 2.5-layer fabric has a breathability of 20,000 g/m2/24 hrs. There are no pit zippers or additional features to help ventilate this jacket, and many users report it feeling clammy and damp on their skin once they start sweating.

Comfort and Mobility

The Outdoor Research Helium rain jacket is made of thin material that doesn’t particularly impede movement in any way. It is loose enough to fit a layer or two underneath. The sleeves come down to your wrists, and the jacket doesn’t ride up if you lift your arms.

Materials

Outdoor Research uses Pertex Shield Diamond Fuse 2.5-layer fabric for the Helium rain jacket. This material uses unique diamond-shaped threads that lock together. The top layer is 30D Ripstop nylon,

Both zips are YK AquaGuard zippers.

Appearance

The Outdoor Research Helium rain jacket looks exactly like what it is – a rain shell made from modern tech material. It is thin and shiny with logos on the chest and the end of one sleeve. As such, you wouldn’t probably wear this around town.

There are plenty of colors to choose from. Most models have zips in the same shade as the jacket. The exceptions are Sulphur, which had contrasting grey zips, and Dawn, which has a bright orange zipper for the chest pocket. Women can pick from Brick (red), Black, Lavender, Saffron (yellow), Titanium (grey), or Ultramarine (blue). The colors for the men’s version are Brick (red), Black, Dawn (grey/blue), Slate (grey), Sulphur (yellow), Coyote (brown), Grove (green), or Galaxy (blue).

Durability

The Pertex Shield Diamond Fuse 2.5-layer fabric used for their Helium rain jacket is extremely durable despite its thinness. According to Outdoor Research, this material has “5x the tear resistance than previous Helium fabric. They’ll withstand snags, rips, lacerations – basically anything sharp that comes into contact with your jacket outside.”

Outdoor Research backs up these claims with a warranty to replace any underperforming gear with direct or comparable replacements from our current stock gear throughout the product’s lifetime.

However, it is important that you follow instructions for taking care of your rain jacket. Clear instructions are provided on how to clean and care for your jacket, and Outdoor Research’s customer service is helpful if you need more details. Some users have complained that the DWR wears off quickly, especially on the sleeves and around the hood. If this happens, it is worth contacting the company as they have been known to replace jackets.

Weight and Packability

One of the best features of the Outdoor Research Helium rain jacket is how small it can be folded down. The light material easily packs down into either the chest pocket for men or into the left-hand pocket for women. This jacket is also incredibly lightweight. However, the women’s model is heavier than the men’s due to the extra pockets. The Outdoor Research Helium rain shell weighs:

Men

6.2 oz/ 176 g

Women

10.8 oz/ 179 g

Features

The Outdoor Research Helium rain jacket is designed to be lightweight and streamlined, so it doesn’t have as many features as some other models.

The sleeves are a reasonable length, but they end in elastic wrist cuffs that can let wind and rain in. The sleeves have a reflective logo and forearm overlays to increase visibility. There is an adjustable drawcord in the hem to tighten the bottom of the jacket.

The hood is a generous size, and many users find it fits over a helmet. The hood is easily adjustable with a drawcord on the back that does a good job of evenly drawing in the sides. There is some stiffening in the brim to help keep your face dry, but you will probably need to wear a cap under the hood to really keep the rain out of your eyes. The zip is not as long as some, and even when fully zipped, the top of the jacket doesn’t come up much past your chin.

The men’s model only had one pocket on the chest. This is a very small pocket, and its main purpose is to provide somewhere to pack the jacket away into. It has a clip inside it that is handy for keeping keys safe. The women’s version has two waist-high pockets, with the clip for keys in the left pocket.

Sustainability

Outdoor Research says that “protecting the environment and being socially conscious is just as important to us as the gear you’ll see on our website and in stores”. The Helium rain jacket is Bluesign-approved. The jacket must have been manufactured to strict safety and environmental requirements to qualify.

Conclusion

If you are looking for a lightweight rain shell that can be packed into an extremely small parcel but still protect you from rain and wind, then the Outdoor Research Helium rain jacket is ideal.

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